Pregnancy acne is a common affliction, one we’ve experienced ourselves, so we understand the frustration. The good news is there are some things you can do to prevent and treat breakouts.
To ease the burden of searching for the perfect product that’s safe to use while pregnant, we’ve done the bulk of the work for you. We’ve tested products and consulted our medical team and hundreds of expecting women to find the safest and most effective products for battling acne breakouts during pregnancy.
We’ve compiled a list of the best products for pregnancy acne, including our reviews of each item, to help zap those blemishes and restore your healthy skin.
- Ultra-pure ingredients
- Non-toxic and GMO-free
- Extremely efficient
- Natural and effective
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Stimulates healing & skin regeneration
- Intense moisturization
- Absorbs quickly
- OB-GYN & dermatologist recommended
- Allergy tested
- Extremely effective
- All-natural ingredient
- Delivers extreme nourishment
- Purifies & tightens pores
- Soft and absorbent
- Multi-layer design
- Effectively treats pimples
- Works quickly
- Same acne formula prescribed by doctors
- Lightweight & non-comedogenic
- Offers full coverage
- Lasts for up to 16 hours
- Dermatologist tested
- Available in 6 shades
What Causes Acne During Pregnancy?
Hormones play a massive role in causing acne, and when you’re pregnant, you’ve got plenty of hormones coursing through your body.
Certain hormones can cause you to increase sebum or oil production, leading to breakouts (1). But it’s not the oil that causes you to break out — it’s the bacteria that naturally live on your skin.
This bacteria feeds on the excess oil and emits a substance that mixes with the oil and dead skin cells to inflame the skin and clog pores, resulting in breakouts.
However, pregnancy hormones don’t cause acne in every woman. And even in the same woman, the response to hormonal fluctuations can vary between pregnancies.
I had horrible cystic acne throughout my first pregnancy and immediately postpartum, while with my second, my skin was clearer than it had ever been.
If you find yourself struggling with terrible skin during pregnancy, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it.
Acne Medication While Pregnant
There are generally four types of prescriptions physicians can choose from when treating a patient with acne.
- Birth Control Pills: Birth control pills battle hormonal acne by helping to regulate your hormones. However, they are not appropriate during pregnancy as hormones are instrumental in helping your baby develop, and you should do nothing to interfere with them while you are pregnant.
- Oral Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics target acne-causing skin bacteria. Some antibiotics are believed to be safe for pregnant women, while others are not (2).
- Topical Retinoids: These are products you apply directly to your skin. They are derived from vitamin A, and large amounts of vitamin A can cause potential birth defects. While pregnant, you should avoid these products because anything you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream (3).
- Oral Retinoids: Retinoids are oral pills that contain the active ingredient isotretinoin and are widely known to cause severe birth defects at any point in pregnancy. You should never use them during pregnancy, and if you are taking them and subsequently discover you’re pregnant, you should stop immediately and speak with your doctor.
As you can see, no prescription acne product seems to be 100% safe while pregnant. Talk to your doctor if you experience severe acne, but it may be best to try to battle it with lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter products.
Acne Products While Pregnant
When treating acne with over-the-counter medications, pay attention to the following ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide: This is one of the most common ingredients in over-the-counter topical acne products. It is believed to be safe for use while pregnant, but it’s not advised for regular, long-term use because it has not been tested on pregnant women. It can also stain your clothes or linens because it contains a bleaching agent. While it should be fine for occasional use to treat active breakouts, avoid it in your daily beauty routine.
- Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is another of the more common ingredients in over-the-counter acne products. While it is thought to be safe during pregnancy, it has not been proven completely safe and should be avoided for long-term use. It should be okay as a product to treat existing breakouts here and there, but not for daily use.
- Topical retinoid: While many topical retinoids are prescription strength, there are over-the-counter versions. These are marketed as retinoids for acne or retinol, used in wrinkle repair products. You should completely avoid these during pregnancy as they contain high levels of vitamin A, which has been associated with birth defects.
- Glycolic acid: Glycolic acid helps remove excess oil and exfoliate your skin. It is considered safe for use during pregnancy in concentrations of less than 10%. It is not as common as some other ingredients marketed for acne treatment but may be present in some skin care products (4).
Always tell your doctor which over-the-counter products you are using to combat your acne to ensure that they are completely safe for your baby.
Editor's Note:Jennifer Schlette, MSN, RN
The Best Pregnancy Acne Products of 2022
Here are nine pregnancy-safe acne products to consider.
1. Aleavia Purifying Organic Facial Cleanser
Best Face Wash for Pregnancy Acne
This plant-based cleanser is everything your skin is craving with none of the harmful additives. It uses natural prebiotics to help restore balance and heal acne rather than using harsh chemicals. It also contains oils to help keep your skin moisturized so it won’t become overly dry.
Not only does this product help clear your acne, but it also helps combat the dark skin patches that can occur during pregnancy.
This cleanser is made from organic and natural ingredients and is paraben-free, which is helpful because parabens can mimic estrogen in the body. It also has no fragrances or dyes that can irritate your skin — especially if it’s more sensitive during pregnancy.
2. Orange Blossom Water Face Toner
Best Toner to Try
A toner is a great part of your skin care regimen because it helps restore your face’s pH balance and remove all traces of makeup and other debris that can clog pores and cause breakouts.
Many toners contain alcohol to work as an astringent, but alcohol can tend to dry your face out. This particular toner uses orange blossom to cleanse the skin and restore the natural acidity that is removed after cleansing.
Orange blossom also has antimicrobial properties that further help fight acne-causing bacteria on your skin.
It is cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, so it will work with almost any woman’s lifestyle.
3. Neutrogena Hydro Boost
Best Facial Moisturizer for Pregnancy Acne
This moisturizer keeps your skin hydrated with hyaluronic acid. Its gel-like consistency allows it to go on smoothly and easily. It can be worn under makeup while still helping to hydrate your skin all day.
Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in your body and is safe to use on your skin during pregnancy.
The fragrance-free, dye-free, and oil-free formula is suitable for people with sensitive skin. It is also non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores and cause further breakouts.
You can also purchase companion products in the Hydro Boost line to create a whole skin care routine with one line of products that are designed to work together.
4. Belli Anti-Blemish Facial Wash
Best Dual-Purpose Cleanser
Rich in lactic acid and other natural ingredients, this face wash targets hormonal acne in a gentle, refreshing way. Not only is it free of dangerous chemicals, but it’s also free of common acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. These are known for causing excessive dryness and irritation, which can lead to more breakouts.
Instead, the soothing formula is rich in antioxidants that are good for your skin. It has even undergone a special screening process to ensure it doesn’t contain any ingredients known to cause defects or harm to your baby.
More than anything else, we love that moms can use this as a facial wash or a mask, doubling the benefits.
To use as a daily cleanser, simply wet the skin and massage it in for sixty seconds before rinsing. To use as a mask, apply as usual but leave it on the face for up to five minutes.
5. Freeman Facial Manuka Clay Mask
Best Face Mask for Acne
This dual mask and cleanser uses honey and tea tree oil to battle acne. Both are all-natural antibacterial agents that can help kill the acne-causing bacteria on your skin without harsh chemicals. It also helps to remove oil without over-drying.
Even better, it’s one of the most affordable products available.
It can be used as a mask for deep cleaning or a cleanser if you’re in a hurry. However, due to the tea tree oil, we recommend only using it as a mask occasionally instead of as a daily cleanser.
Though it’s an all-natural ingredient, tea tree oil can be dangerous during pregnancy if used too frequently or improperly. It should be safe to use as long as you don’t ingest it or use it directly on your skin in an undiluted form. To be cautious, you should wait to use products with tea tree oil until after the first trimester.
6. Swisspers Exfoliating Cotton Rounds
Best Exfoliating Cotton Rounds
When using your toner, give it some extra help by using these exfoliating cotton rounds to apply it rather than the regular variety.
These rounds have one side that is rougher than the other, allowing them to gently scrub your skin to remove excess makeup, debris, and skin cells so it doesn’t clog your pores. This is particularly helpful for treating breakouts on your forehead or along your hairline.
You can also use these versatile rounds for makeup application or other beauty uses.
As a person who has waged a personal acne battle for over 20 years, I have recently discovered these exfoliating rounds. They have had the most significant impact on my breakouts over anything I’ve ever tried — including medicated products.
7. Clean & Clear Persa-Gel Spot Treatment
Best Acne Treatment Cream
This 10% benzoyl peroxide product is designed to attack breakouts with a prescription-strength concentration. While you shouldn’t use this product every day of your pregnancy, it is safe to use on occasion to battle embarrassing breakouts to help them heal faster.
It tackles blemishes at their source, deep in the pores, helping to dry out your pimples.
Because of this, it may dry out your skin. But if you’re not over-using it, this likely won’t be an issue.
8. Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse Airbrush Foundation
Best Foundation for Pregnancy Acne
All the foundations marketed for acne-prone skin contain ingredients that are not recommended for daily use during pregnancy. This foundation is non-comedogenic but will still offer you a full-coverage, smooth-looking finish to help create the illusion of flawless skin.
It can be worn for up to 16 hours and is suitable for sensitive skin. It comes in several colors to match your perfect shade and is lightweight despite its full coverage.
It also helps moisturize your skin to keep it healthy and prevent it from drying out.
9. Almay Clear Complexion Concealer
Best Concealer for Pregnancy Acne
This concealer comes in three different shades, so you can find the right one to match your complexion. It is formulated with salicylic acid to help clear your breakouts, which is okay for occasional use but should not be used daily.
It has a mineral complex to absorb oil throughout the day and keep your face from appearing too shiny. It is hypoallergenic, so it’s not likely to irritate your skin. It contains both aloe and chamomile to help reduce inflammation and reduce redness.
It is a full-coverage concealer, meaning it is thick enough to cover your blemishes well. There are also additional products in the line if you’d like to purchase a full product line to help cover and heal your skin during breakouts.
Managing Acne Breakouts While Pregnant
Because the active ingredients in almost all acne prescriptions and over-the-counter acne skin care products are not recommended for use during pregnancy, it’s best to opt for gentle, regular beauty products. You can still battle your acne through your skin care routine, hygiene practices, and lifestyle modifications.
Here are some things you can try.
- Wash your face — but not too frequently: Wash your face in the morning and at night to remove oil, bacteria, makeup, and environmental pollutants. However, if you wash more frequently than that, your skin will ramp up oil production to replenish the moisture removed during washing. Overwashing can cause more problems than it solves.
- Exfoliate: Exfoliate gently to remove excess skin cells that can clog your pores. It’s enough to use an exfoliating product two to three times per week — any more frequently than that can irritate your skin. The same is true if you suffer from acne on your back or body. Using an exfoliating loofah can do wonders for your body acne.
- Moisturize: It’s tempting to skip the moisturizer when you feel like your skin is oily or greasy, but if you skip it, your skin will overcompensate with oil production because it will feel too dry.
- Choose non-comedogenic makeup: If you’re struggling with breakouts, make sure that all moisturizers, serums, and makeup products are labeled as non-comedogenic — meaning they will not clog your pores.
- Wash your pillowcase: Your face spends a whole lot of hours rubbing against your pillowcase, and dirt, oil, and bacteria build up quickly. Wash your pillowcase regularly — or cover it with a clean towel each night — to keep the gunk from clogging your pores while you sleep.
- Wear your hair up: Your hair carries oils, so keep it away from your face, especially when sleeping, to keep it from transferring the oil to your face.
- Don’t touch your face: Avoid touching your face as it can transfer dirt, bacteria, and oils to your skin.
- Eat clean: When you eat high-glycemic foods, it causes your blood sugar to rise, your insulin to spike, and your hormone levels to adjust — potentially causing acne. Avoiding sugar and high-glycemic foods can help tame your breakouts, and eating clean in general can reduce inflammation which contributes to acne.
- Use a light-based product: There are many LED light masks or light pens designed to treat acne by killing the bacteria on your face. These do not introduce a substance that is absorbed into your skin and are considered safe to use during pregnancy.
- Ditch dairy: Nearly everything about dairy is bad for your skin if you are prone to acne. It contains a large amount of IGF-1 and endogenous hormones and causes your skin to produce excess sebum, leading to clogged pores.
The Bottom Line
Our favorite product to help you battle pregnancy-related acne is Aleavia Purifying Organic Facial Cleanser. It contains natural and organic ingredients that will help to cleanse your skin gently without irritating it.
Because it doesn’t contain any ingredients that could be harmful while pregnant, it’s safe to use every day. It also doesn’t have any irritants and can even help combat other common skin conditions during pregnancy, like skin darkening.
Pregnancy acne can be stubborn and frustrating, but you can turn those constant breakouts into a true pregnancy glow with the right products.